What you need to know about jewelry metals
There are several metals used in the creation of fine jewelry. By knowing information about the different metals, their benefits compared with each other and their unique qualities you will be able to make a better and more informed decision about purchasing your jewelry. The metal types commonly used to make jewelry include gold, platinum, titanium, silver and stainless steel. Metals including rhodium and palladium are also used with jewelry. Below you will find information about each of these metal types, together with information about which metals are best for particular types of jewelry.
Gold is the most popular choice for men’s and ladies wedding rings and engagement rings. Gold is also very popular in dress rings, earrings, pendants, necklaces and bracelets. There are two things to consider when looking at gold. First, which gold carat to choose and second, the gold color or the combination of gold colors available.
There are several carats available for gold. The carat is the gold content of the metal. The carat measures the proportion of pure gold mixed with other metal alloy to make up the final metal. The carat of gold is represented in many countries by the abbreviation ct. Carat can also be called karat, represented by kt or K. You may notice that carat or ct is also used to measure the weight of diamonds and gemstones. Although the same name is used, the two measurements are measuring different characteristics of jewelry. The gold carats normally used in men’s wedding rings are 9kt, 14kt and 18kt. The higher the proportion of gold used in the final metal, the more valuable and expensive the metal will be. So all other things being the same, an 18kt ring will be more expensive than a 14kt ring and a 14kt ring will be more expensive than a 9kt ring.
9kt gold contains 37.5% pure gold (375 parts per thousand parts). 14kt gold contains 58.5% pre gold (585 parts per thousand parts). 18kt gold contains 75% pure gold (750 parts per thousand parts). The remainder of the metals is made up of a combination of alloys, different metals which can help to give the metal its unique appearance, such as a different color. Other gold carats are used in different parts of the world including 10ct, 22ct and 24ct. It is generally considered that 22ct and 24ct gold are too soft to be used to make men’s wedding rings. 10ct gold (417 parts pure gold per thousand parts) is very similar to 9kt gold and the reason why some countries use 9kt and other countries use 10ct is due to historical reasons, rather than one being superior to the other. Jewelry is normally stamped with a marking to show the type of gold. For 9kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 375, 9kt, 9kt or 9K. For 14kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 585, 14kt, 14kt or 14K. For 18kt gold the stamp will normally be either the number 750, 18kt, 18kt or 18K. The stamps only indicate the carat of metal. They do not indicate the color of the metal. So for example an 18kt yellow gold ring would have a stamp of 750 as would an 18kt white gold ring. 9kt, 14kt and 18kt gold are each relatively hard and durable metals and are suitable for use in all types of fine jewelry. Gold is also suitable to be used in jewelry that is worn on an every day basis. When choosing jewelry, particularly rings, many people consider the hardness and durability of gold to be used in their ring. Metal hardness is measured by what is called the Vickers scale where harder metals receive a higher Vickers score than less hard metals. 9kt has a Vickers hardness of 120 and 18kt has a Vickers hardness of 125. This shows 18kt as harder, but the difference is so slight that in practical terms 9kt and 18kt are much the same in terms of hardness. There is another difference that should be considered when comparing 9kt and 18kt. 9kt is more difficult to bend and is a little more springy and therefore a fine 9kt ring may be less likely to bend out of shape than a fine 18kt ring. However, if the ring is of a good sturdy construction neither metal will be likely to bend out of shape.
Next you need to consider the color of gold. Gold is available in several different colors. The most popular is yellow gold, followed by white gold and rose gold, though other gold colors are sometimes also available such as bronze, red and lime gold. Jewelry can also be made using a combination of different gold colors. These jewelry items are sometimes called two-tone, three-tone or multi-colored gold. The gold content of yellow gold is measured in the same way it is measured in for example white gold. So an 18kt white gold ring contains 75% pure gold, just as 18kt yellow gold contains 75% pure gold. The difference in color between yellow, white and rose is determined by the metals used in the alloy mix.
As the color difference is due to the metal components in the alloy mix, the color of yellow gold and rose gold will not chip, fade or wear off with age. Yellow gold is made by mixing pure gold with alloy metals such as copper and zinc. Rose gold is made using a mix of pure gold with alloys including copper. The copper provides the rose-reddish color. White gold is an alloy of gold and some white metals such as silver and palladium. Traditionally nickel was used in white gold, however, nickel is no longer used in most white gold made today as nickel can cause reactions with some people. We do not use nickel in our white gold When white gold rings are new they can be coated with another white metal called Rhodium. Rhodium is a metal very similar to platinum and rhodium shares many of the properties of platinum including its white color. The rhodium plating is used to make the white gold look more white. The natural color of white gold is actually a light grey color. The rhodium is very white and very hard, but it does wear away eventually. To keep a white gold ring looking its best it should be re-rhodium plated approximately each 12 to 18 months. Most local jewelers are able to rhodium plate jewelry for a cost effective price. As each gold color contains the same proportion of pure gold all gold colors with the same carat weight when measured on the Vickers scale have the same Vickers score. There can be a difference in color between the different carats of gold. 18kt yellow gold is more yellow than 9kt yellow gold with 18kt yellow gold having a richer golden color making 18kt yellow gold a more popular choice of yellow gold than 9kt for ladies engagement rings. 9kt rose gold has a darker rose-copper color than 18kt rose gold which has a more subtle rose color. 9kt white gold and 18kt white gold have a similar white color (as normally both have a rhodium plating finish. When comparing the price of the gold colors in the same carat, white gold is normally a little more expensive than yellow gold and rose gold. Yellow gold and rose gold normally have approximately the same price. When trying to decide between the gold carat types there are three things to consider.
- The metals performance with every day wear
- The difference in color between the 9kt, 14kt and 18kt gold
- The difference in price between the gold carats.
In practical terms, 18kt generally holds up to everyday wear better than 9kt and tends to look better than 9kt as it ages over the years. This is one of the reasons why 18kt is normally preferred for ladies engagement rings rather than 9kt. 18kt is the superior metal for lady’s and men’s wedding rings provided that the ring is not a lightweight construction (Gillett’s Jewellers rings are a good construction). However, 18kt is more expensive than 14kt and 9kt, which is usually fine for ladies engagement rings, though in a large men’s ring the 18kt price can be a noticeable difference. 9kt, 14kt and 18kt are each suitable equally suitable for use in dress rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces. Many people choose 9kt and 14kt for their earrings and pendants due to its lower price.
Titanium is a natural element which has a silver-greyish-white color. Titanium is the hardest natural metal in the world. It is very strong, three times the strength of steel and much stronger than gold, silver and platinum and yet is very light weight. Pure titanium is also 100% hypo-allergenic which means that it if safe for anyone to wear as it will not react to your skin. Titanium provides several unique factors that make it a good metal for jewelry. It is very strong, more dent, bend and scratch resistant than gold, silver and platinum, is lightweight and importantly offers an exotic array of colors which other metals simply do not. One factor to consider with titanium is that titanium cannot be soldered, which means that titanium rings cannot normally be resized. Titanium rings made using pure titanium can normally be cut-off the finger in the event of an emergency, though they are more difficult to cut-off than gold, silver or platinum rings. Aircraft grade titanium rings normally cannot be cut-off in the event of an emergency. Titanium is popular in earrings and bracelets for both ladies and men.
|Quick Reference – What types of jewelry are suitable for titanium?
|Ladies engagement rings||Titanium engagement rings are available, though because titanium cannot be soldered, the prong setting styles common in engagement rings cannot be made using titanium. The range of titanium engagement rings available is therefore significantly limited compared to gold and platinum engagement rings. Titanium engagement rings cannot be resized in the future, because the titanium cannot be re-soldered. .View titanium engagement rings.
|Ladies and men’s wedding rings||Titanium is an increasingly popular choice for wedding rings. Although the same metal is recommended for use in both a lady’s engagement ring and wedding ring, some ladies are preferring to wear titanium rings with their 18kt engagement rings. Titanium wedding rings cannot be resized in the future, because the titanium cannot be re-soldered. View titanium ladies wedding rings and titanium men’s wedding rings.|
|Earrings||Titanium is suitable to be used in earrings. Some titanium earrings are now available. The range available is normally smaller than for gold and silver.
|Pendants and necklaces||Titanium is not commonly used in pendants and necklaces due to the inability to solder titanium, limiting the shapes and designs that can be created.
|Bracelets||Titanium offers a lightweight alternative to gold and is more affordable for use in bracelets, making it a popular choice for men’s bracelets. The color of titanium is also appealing to men and often matches the color of men’s watches. View titanium bracelets.
Platinum is a white metal, but unlike gold it is used in jewelry in almost its pure form (approximately 95% pure). Platinum is extremely long wearing and is very white, so it does not need to be rhodium plated like white gold does. Platinum is very dense and heavy metal, so a platinum ring will feel heavier than an 18kt gold ring. Platinum is, however, significantly more expensive than gold. With all other things being the same, a platinum ring will be approximately twice the price of an 18kt white gold ring. Platinum is a prestige choice and is often chosen for its sophisticated appeal and popularity amongst the rich and famous. Platinum is normally not used in the full range of jewelry products due to its higher price. Platinum is mainly used in ladies engagement rings, ladies wedding rings and men’s wedding rings. Platinum can also be used to make dress rings, though it is not commonly used to make earrings, pendants, bracelets or necklaces.
|Quick Reference – What types of jewelry are suitable for platinum?|
|Ladies engagement rings||Platinum is suited to ladies engagement rings. It is an increasingly popular choice. Platinum engagement rings can be resized in the future. Gillett’s Jewellers can custom make platinum engagement rings. View platinum engagement rings|
|Ladies wedding rings||Ladies who wear platinum engagement rings normally choose platinum wedding rings. Platinum wedding rings can be resized in the future. Gillett’s Jewellers can custom make ladies platinum wedding rings. View platinum ladies wedding rings.|
|Men’s wedding rings||Platinum is suitable for men’s wedding rings, though it is significantly more expensive than other metal options, making it less popular for men’s wedding rings. The choice of men’s platinum wedding rings will normally be more limited than with gold wedding rings. Gillett’s Jewellers can custom make men’s platinum wedding rings. View platinum men’s wedding rings.|
|Dress rings||Platinum is suitable for men’s and ladies dress rings, though it is significantly more expensive than other metal options, making it less popular for this type of ring. The range of platinum dress rings will normally be limited..|
|Earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces||Platinum is not commonly available in these types of jewelry due to its increased expense.|
Palladium is a white metal which is has a silver-grey-white color and is similar to platinum. Palladium is one of the metals that is part of the platinum group of metals. The platinum group metals share similar chemical properties. Palladium is well suited to use with engagement rings and wedding rings. A few short years ago the price of palladium was actually higher than platinum, however, the price of palladium is now lower than platinum, making it a more affordable option.
|Quick Reference – What types of jewelry are suitable for palladium?|
|Ladies engagement rings||Palladium is not recommended for engagement rings. Palladium has only relatively recently begun being used in engagement ring designs, so the number of palladium engagement ring designs will normally be smaller than for other metals.|
|Ladies and men’s wedding rings||Palladium is recommended for wedding rings|
|Dress rings||Palladium is suitable for use in dress rings, though the number of palladium dress ring designs will normally be limited.|
|Earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces||Palladium is suitable for use in earrings and pendants, though it is rarely used to make these items.|
Sterling silver is a white-grey colored metal which is less expensive than gold, platinum and titanium. Silver is a softer metal than gold, titanium and platinum and does not have hardness that the other metals do. Silver is a popular metal for use in jewelry such as earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and dress rings. It is best used for jewelry that will not be worn every day for an extended period. For that reason it is usually not recommend to be chosen for ladies and men’s wedding rings, and is not suitable for ladies engagement rings. Silver is also more prone to oxidisation, sometimes causing the silver to turn black. The silver jewelry can easily be made to look like new again if you use a silver jewelry cleaner (available from most department stores) or if you have your jewelry cleaned by a local jeweler.
|Quick Reference – What types of jewelry are suitable for silver?|
|Ladies engagement rings||Silver is not recommended for engagement rings.|
|Ladies and men’s wedding rings||Silver is not recommended for wedding rings|
|Dress rings||Silver is suitable for use in rings that will be worn as dress rings. These rings are generally not worn every day for an extended number of years. The range of silver dress rings for ladies and men is often quite wide and they include simple silver rings, diamond silver rings and gemstone silver rings. View ladies silver dress rings and men’s silver dress rings.|
|Earrings, pendants, bracelets and necklaces||Silver is a very popular choice for earrings as it is very cost effective and has an appealing color. View silver earrings, silver pendants, silver bracelets and silver necklaces.|
Tungsten carbide, also referred to simply as tungsten, is a very hard, strong and durable metal. It’s also quite heavy.Tungsten has a characteristic unique to this special metal – tungsten is highly scratch resistant. Unlike gold, platinum and even titanium, tungsten rings do not scratch with everyday wear like the other metals do. It is technically possible to scratch tungsten, though only with objects that are harder than tungsten. So that leaves diamonds, sapphires, rubies and ceramic. Though unless you dragged the tip of a loose diamond along the tungsten, the metal will stay scratch resistant. Having a wedding band that’s scratch resistant offers a lot of advantages. Tungsten always looks new and bright and shiny. Tungsten offers what’s referred to as a permanent polish, which means that it doesn’t need to be re-polished. So, it doesn’t need the polishing maintenance that gold, platinum and titanium rings do. Tungsten stands up to the wear that even the roughest husbands can dish-out, making it a popular choice for men’s wedding rings. Tungsten has an appealing color which almost all men like. The tungsten color is a grey-white color, similar to that of white gold or titanium. Tungsten is particularly popular in men’s wedding rings. The range of tungsten jewellery is generally more restricted than for other metals. Tungsten rings cannot be resized (as tungsten can’t be cut and resoldered), so it’s important to have your finger size accuratley measured before buying a tungsten ring. View men’s tungsten wedding rings
|Ladies engagement rings||Tungsten carbide is not recommended for engagement rings. Tungsten carbide is a hard metal to work with making it not suitable for use in most engagement ring designs.|
|Ladies wedding rings||Tungsten carbide is not normally used for ladies rings, as most ladies choose the matching metal used in their engagement ring|
|Men’s wedding rings||Tungsten carbide is becoming popular for use in men’s wedding rings. The range of tungsten carbide wedding rings is normally more limited than for gold and titanium.|
|Earrings||Tungsten carbide is not readily available in earrings.|
|Pendants||Tungsten carbide is not readily available in pendants.|
|Bracelets and necklaces||Tungsten carbide is not readily available in pendants.|
Stainless steel is a metal not traditionally used in fine jewelry, though its popularity in dress jewelry is increasing. Stainless steel is a relatively hard and durable metal. It is particularly popular in men’s bracelets, necklaces and men’s dress rings. The range of stainless steel jewelry is generally more restricted than for other metals. View stainless steel bracelets.
|Ladies engagement rings||Stainless steel is not recommended for engagement rings|
|Ladies wedding rings||Stainless steel is not normally used for ladies rings, as most ladies choose the matching metal from their engagement ring|
|Men’s wedding rings||Stainless steel is generally not recommended for men’s wedding rings. A wedding ring needs to last for a very long time, and stainless steel is not as durable as other metals used in men’s wedding rings. Stainless steel can be used in men’s wedding rings though the range of stainless steel wedding rings is normally more limited than for gold and titanium.|
|Earrings||Stainless steel is not readily available in earrings.|
|Pendants||Stainless steel is now often used in men’s pendants and some ladies pendants due to its appealing color and lower cost.|
|Bracelets and necklaces||Stainless steel is becoming increasingly popular in men’s bracelets and necklaces due to its appealing color and its lower cost.|